Judy Heffernan and her Amsterdam friends were always on the move during the early 1960s.
“We had a lot of dances, we had sororities and fraternities back then,” she said. “We always had a Christmas formal; everybody went to them. We went downtown to Main Street on Friday night.”
Good times will roll again next month for Judy — now Judy Heffernan Elmy — and other members of Amsterdam High School’s Class of 1964. The group’s 50th anniversary celebration will begin Friday, Aug. 8, with a 6 p.m. gathering at the Perthshire banquet facility in Amsterdam. A dinner buffet at the Perthshire will be held Saturday, Aug. 9, another 6 o’clock starter. A clams and keg party at Driftwood Park in Mayfield will conclude the class reunion on Sunday, Aug. 10. First beers will be poured at 1:30 p.m.
Elmy remembers the downtown hot spots of 50 years past. Kids went to Tesiero’s pharmacy for sodas and milkshakes. The Community pharmacy was another occasional haunt. Lurie’s department store, the Holzheimer and Shaul ladies’ store and the Tony Brooks Music and Record Store were other places that profited from teenagers’ allowances.
“He’d let us listen to the records; we’d buy after we’d listen to them,” Elmy said of Brooks’ kid-friendly store policy.
Frank’s Pool Hall, above the Amsterdam bus station, was a place to rack ’em and smoke ’em — loose cigarettes were signs of the time. Elmy also remembers girlfriends gathering at Bottisti’s pizza, pitching in $1 each and buying a large pizza to slice and share.
There were other signs of the times as Elmy and company began their senior years in 1963.
“Just before Thanksgiving, there was the Kennedy assassination,” Elmy said of the Nov. 22 shooting of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas. “That spring is when the Beatles came out. So we had both of them.
“Vietnam was in the news,” Elmy added. “They didn’t have the draft lottery system up yet. Some boys were enlisting because they felt it was the right thing to do. Others were trying to get into college to get out of it.”
Amsterdam graduated 413 seniors in 1964, and one of the biggest men on campus was Tim Kolodziej, Amsterdam’s 6-foot-5 basketball star. Kolodziej — now Tim Kolojay — was the Hilltoppers’ go-to guy on Dec. 27, 1963. On that night, Amsterdam was at Linton High School for the Blue Devils’ third annual Schenectady Holiday Festival, and a match against Manhattan’s vaunted Power Memorial.
Lew Alcindor, then a 7-foot-1 junior, led Power to a 96-45 victory. Alcindor — with UCLA, the National Basketball Association, a name change to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame still in front of him — scored 26. Kolodziej scored 22, and made the all-tourney team. He later played at Duke.
Elmy, a drum majorette during her high school days, also remembers Halloween.
“Every Halloween they had a huge Halloween party at night in Amsterdam,” she said. “The majorettes and the bands always appeared. We would march the length of Main Street, and we’d stop in front of the Tryon Theatre. The band would play ‘Lullaby of Broadway’; we did a Rockettes routine to it.”
The majorettes may try a Rockettes reunion during the gathering. If not, Elmy will just be glad to see some of her friends from decades past — including class president Tom Pikul, who now lives in France. People interested in attending the reunion can contact Elmy at email@example.com or at 843-2033.